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How Connecticut Falls Short in Education [Op-Ed]

This op-ed is from the office of Senator Kevin Witkos.

Kevin Witkos
Kevin Witkos
Sen. Kevin Witkos represents the 8th District towns of Avon, Barkhamsted, Canton, Colebrook, Granby, Hartland, Harwinton, New Hartford, Norfolk, Simsbury and Torrington.

He penned the following op-ed on the education system.

A resilient and comprehensive education system is crucial to strengthening our communities. This legislative session, lawmakers have worked hard to better education, most notably passing significant legislation to make quality preschool more accessible. However, there are still many areas where we fall short, and these gaps need to be acknowledged.

The Connecticut state Senate recently approved legislation to establish the Office of Early Childhood Education and to expand pre-Kindergarten offerings throughout the state. While I support this legislation and voted in favor of the bills, I also proposed multiple amendments that would have further strengthened our education system. Unfortunately, these amendments were rejected by the majority party.

While everyone is celebrating the ultimate passage of the pre-K legislation, it is also important that we not forget those proposed amendments, and recognize what could have been and what can still be improved in the future.

One of the amendments I proposed would have required the state to fully fund the Special Education Excess Cost Grant formula, before funding new pre-K programming. Based on this formula, the state owes approximately $30 million to schools to help pay for special education needs. The state is responsible for funding special education costs if they exceed 4 ½ times the costs of providing education to non-special needs students. These needs are significant, but the state has capped spending within the formula, leaving many schools in deficit. I believe that we should fully fund special education needs before we start any new education projects.

Another proposed amendment would have made it a priority to fund pre-K in Sheff schools in the greater Hartford area. These schools are part of a program which allows Hartford students to attend schools in suburban school districts, and brings suburban students into Hartford to attend magnet schools. The program is designed to promote integration, ensuring that minorities are equally represented and have access to diverse education environments. The Sheff region was established after a 1989 lawsuit led to the Sheff v. O’Neill Connecticut Supreme Court case and a landmark ruling regarding civil rights and education. Connecticut has come a long way since then, but we still have not met our goal of fully equalizing the education opportunities for students in Hartford. As we move forward with new education programs, we must focus especially on the Sheff schools to continue promoting equality.

I believe that accessible pre-K education is very important to closing the achievement gap. Studies have even shown that for every dollar we invest in early childhood education, taxpayers save seven dollars over the course of K-12 education. However, there are many education programs that need additional attention which we cannot forget. Special education and education equality must be part of the bigger conversation.

Fran Hoffnagle May 09, 2014 at 08:01 AM
I applaud your position on this issue and agree with all but one point that leaves me wondering. What do you think about the studies that say that the advantage of pre-school education disappears by the time the children are in middle school - that the advantage is temporary?
Paul Bahre May 09, 2014 at 08:46 AM
I don't think that Pre-K really has any impact. You are dealing with children at the end of being toddlers and if parents stepped up they could gain the same educational advantages as kids who attend Pre_k. I spent a large sum and sent my daughter to one of the premiere pre-k programs in the Farmington Valley, but you know what? If I ask her what she remembers about her time and participation in the program or even any of the core lessons? She would draw a blank. Their early long term memories have not even developed at that point. The whole system is just designed to drain dollars out our pockets. I say if you want your child in pre-k then man up and spend money on it like I did. I'm not exactly sold on the idea but what I'm totally against is paying to send your child to pre-k. Of course lets just say what it is: Another LIBERAL TAX and Drain on our economy with the studies done by liberals for liberals. Just another pet socialist project being pushed by Obama. What we need to do is strengthen science technology and math courses from 1st grade on. Of course we all know that early readers really don't enjoy too many advantages over their peers that learn to read with the bell curve same can be said for pre-k education. Sen. Witkos, you want to spend money figure out a way to reorganize the local town form of government reliance on property tax and figure out a better way to fund town functions into larger regional forms of government. (Maybe bring back County Governments to replace all the services being provided by the towns)
Bob May 09, 2014 at 12:03 PM
This is a good idea. It will help to further promote government school's indoctrination of our children. This is necessary because parents don't know what's best.

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